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Indian-Americans keep their fingers crossed

As Barack Obama prepares to take office, a cross-section of Indian-Americans spoke to Hindustan Times about the reasons for the connect, their hopes and their concerns.

world Updated: Jan 20, 2009 13:42 IST
V Krishna

Support for Barack Obama was stronger among Indian-Americans than any other Asian-American group in the election.

As he prepares to take office, a cross-section spoke to Hindustan Times about the reasons for the connect, their hopes and their concerns.

To Nishant Shah, Barack Obama is a symbol — of politics that can be done in a way that brings everyone to the table, that doesn’t alienate.

Shah, a graduate student at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs in New York who’s here for the inauguration, describes himself as a progressive. “People of the progressive mindset have been waiting for someone who speaks to the ideals that have been missing from public life for a long time,” he says.

“Obama’s rise to the top of the power structure represents hope to Indian-Americans.”

Obama has a lot on his plate, so Shah’s not sure how his presidency will turn out.

Indira Nair, an engineer with IBM who lives in Briarcliff Manor in New York state, supported Obama from the beginning and is excited about the change.

“But the problems facing the country are huge, so I don’t think any of us are looking for immediate solutions,” she says.

In foreign policy, she thinks Obama needs to address the growing resentment against the United States in West Asia.

And on the economic front, he should do whatever he can to restore confidence.

Dallas businessman Ashok Mago, a Republican, says Obama is intelligent and has the right temperament.

“For the sake of the country everyone wants him to succeed.... He has created a sense of optimism among people. The challenge is to maintain it.”

Gulshan Gachoke, a homemaker from Fremont, California, who supported Hillary Clinton during the primaries, was won over after seeing an Obama video. “I thought he was an Indian,” she says. Gachoke thinks the Obama administration will reduce hate crime.

“They say he will do a lot for children and women. That’s good. If children get better education, they won’t get into trouble,” says Gachoke, on her first visit to Washington to attend the inauguration.

Kishan Putta, a health-care policy consultant in Washington who was national director of Indians for McCain, is happy that the highest glass ceiling has been broken.

He is hopeful that Obama will lead well but has one concern. Obama’s cabinet is very capable, he says, but it is short on people with significant business experience. “Small businesses are really the engine of our economy, and if you don’t have people who understand what it takes to run a company, you are not going to understand how to create jobs.”